The Top 7 TED Talks for CFOs


As the chief financial officer of a company, you have a lot on your plate, from overseeing your company’s business process management to managing and evaluating your company’s financial decisions. Not only are you responsible for taking care of the financial risks of your corporation, you need to plan for its future, submit financial reports, and manage a team.  The pressure can be a bit overwhelming. Take a moment to yourself and watch these TED Talks. From discussing the economy to the making of great leaders, these talks are ideal for CFOs.

  1. Simon Sinek: Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe

Simon Sinek’s talks focus on leadership and the how and why leaders act, think, and communicate as they do. In this talk, Sinek talks about the importance of leaders making their employees feel safe. “Safe” does not necessarily—but should—include financial and job security, but Sinek focuses on employees feeling protected by the leaders in an organization. When they feel safe, they are willing to put their full effort into a company.

“You see, if the conditions are wrong, we are forced to expend our own time and energy to protect ourselves from each other, and that inherently weakens the organization. When we feel safe inside the organization, we will naturally combine our talents and our strengths and work tirelessly to face the dangers outside and seize the opportunities.”

  1. Dambisa Moyo: Economic Growth Has Stalled. Let’s Fix It.

In this talk on economic growth, Dambisa Moyo argues that current capitalist practices don’t foster growth that is necessary; and it’s not just state-sponsored markets like those seen in China—it’s the United States’, too. CFOs should consider what Moyo is saying as they continue to evaluate their organization’s position in the marketplace. Is the business helping or hindering economic growth—and is the marketplace helping or hindering the business’s economic growth? Whether they believe so or not, corporations have a social responsibility to not only the people it services but everyone within their surrounding community. And if the current capitalist system does not help resolve social ills, then the companies have a moral obligation to participate in change.

“Economic growth matters. With economic growth, countries and societies enter into a virtuous cycle of upward mobility, opportunity and improved living standards. Without growth, countries contract and atrophy, not just in the annals of economic statistics but also in the meaning of life and how lives are lived. Economic growth matters powerfully for the individual. If growth wanes, the risk to human progress and the risk of political and social instability rises, and societies become dimmer, coarser and smaller.”

  1. Tim Jackson: An Economic Reality Check

As touched on in Dambisa Moyo’s talk, social ills cannot be resolved until the current capitalist model is changed. Tim Jackson’s talk expands on this idea by discussing how the idea of economic investing can lead to mending these social ills. Instead of focusing on a materialistic prosperity, Jackson argues, businesses and the economy should focus on a meaningful prosperity. This change aligns with the concept of corporate social responsibility: While it may not solve the problems entirely, it can help lessen the issue (and help the business in turn).

“It’s a different kind of enterprise for a new economy. It’s a form, if you like, of ecological altruism…[W]hat we need the economy to do, in fact, is to put investment back into the heart of the model, to re-conceive investment. Only now, investment isn’t going to be about the relentless and mindless pursuit of consumption growth…. Investment has to be, in the new economy, protecting and nurturing the ecological assets on which our future depends. It has to be about transition. It has to be investing in low-carbon technologies and infrastructures. We have to invest, in fact, in the idea of a meaningful prosperity, providing capabilities for people to flourish.”

  1. Julian Treasure: 5 Ways to Listen Better

As leaders in an organization and of a group of individuals, listening is an essential tool in fully performing your duty as a leader. But as Julian Treasure explains, we don’t always give our undivided attention to an individual and we don’t retain as much as we think we do. Due to the nature of communication, what an individual says may not be interpreted as intended. Words are misheard and since frames of references are not the same, the meaning behind the words is changed.  Follow Treasure’s blog for more information about “powerful speaking and listening to health, wealth, and relationships.”

“This is a serious problem that we’re losing our listening. This is not trivial. Because listening is our access to understanding. Conscious listening always creates understanding. And only without conscious listening can these things happen — a world where we don’t listen to each other at all, is a very scary place indeed.”

  1. Nigel Marsh: How to Make Work-Life Balance Work

Is the idea of a work-life balance a farfetched fantasy? Nigel Marsh would say no, but that it may be difficult to achieve. In his talk, Marsh discusses his four main observations on achieving a work-life balance after a yearlong hiatus from work. These observations include taking responsibility for our own lives and understand what constitutes balance. The overarching point of Marsh’s talk seems like it should be obvious, but with the stresses of the day-to-day, it may come as a surprise.

“Now the first step in solving any problem is acknowledging the reality of the situation you’re in. And the reality of the society that we’re in is there are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.”

  1. Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action

Simon Sinek makes the list twice for his observations regarding leadership, which aside from subject knowledge is the most important aspect of a CFO’s job. Sinek’s explanation—what he calls “the golden circle”—of how great leaders inspire action works for both individuals leading teams or for an organization’s marketing and branding efforts. In this talk Sinek uses Apple and the Wright Brothers as successful leaders, to establish the importance of knowing “why.” In addition to online courses and two books, Sinek also dishes out leadership wisdom on the Start With Why blog.

“What it proves to us is that people don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it.”

  1. Celeste Headlee: 10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation

Whether picking up a coffee order for the office or securing a new client, the ability to effectively communicate is crucial in these—and all—situations. As a radio host, Headlee learned about the importance of not just listening, but being present in the conversation. In this talk, she gives ten actions to implement to make a conversation the best it can be; even mastering just one, she says, will lead to having a better conversation. As with all leadership roles, the ability to have a meaningful conversation positively affects work relations and fosters a more effective and productive work environment.

“You have to listen to one another. Stephen Covey said it very beautifully. He said, ‘Most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand. We listen with the intent to reply.’”

Bonus! Richard St. John: 8 Secrets of Success

This short and sweet (read: 3 minutes) talk by “self-described average guy” Richard St. John condenses a two-hour presentation into just a few slides. He begins by explaining how his journey began: On a plane, a high school student asked him what leads to success. He couldn’t give her the answer, so he went out to find one. Seven years and 500 interviews with TEDsters later, St. John shares the eight lessons that has led individuals to their success.

“Work! Rupert Murdoch said to me, “It’s all hard work. Nothing comes easily. But I have a lot of fun.” Did he say fun? Rupert? Yes! TEDsters do have fun working. And they work hard. I figured, they’re not workaholics. They’re workafrolics.”

Hannah Nava loves writing about any topic, and the value of leadership and the economy are no exception. She currently writes on behalf of the ERP consultants at TGO Consulting. When not marrying words, Hannah enjoys reading science fiction, fantasy, and dystopian works; sipping margaritas (always frozen); and trying to make the world a happier place. Tweet her @hannahmnava or connect with her on LinkedIn



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